Nothing can bring you happiness but yourself.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

Praise Not Flattery Will Get You There

October 13th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 36 secs

Giving praise and encouragement goes a long way.

Giving praise and encouragement goes a long way.

Everybody loves praise. Whether we feel comfortable about it or not comes down to the way it is delivered. But if it’s genuine and couched in measurable efforts or obvious qualities, praise feels good.

Not so flattery. Though we might accept it in preference to no recognition, flattery from a gilded tongue comes with strings and never leaves us quite so comfortable about what it really means.

From a happiness perspective we do well to question intentions and trust our gut feeling about those “gilding the lily”.  Knowing you are adequate doesn’t need silver-tongued niceties to validate. Nor, do we need to adopt flattery at all costs.

For, knowing you are okay is enough in itself (though, for me, my faith that I am loved by the Creator is my strongest confirmation). But, whichever way we find a solid sense of validation, it should protect us from others who might prey upon our frailties with false words of approval.

While getting praise offers a different influence, it also needs to speak to the values that you hold. That way, instead of feeding ego, it can affirm our efforts and aspects of character in a favorable way.

I know this all sounds very solemn but the power of praise and flattery is immense. So it pays to have good ways of putting it all into healthy perspective.

Meanwhile, it’s important that we apply our own insights and experience in the way we praise, so we don’t stray into shallow flattery. Otherwise, our words can easily be the things that cause others to feel confused and doubt our best intentions.

How do we avoid vacuous flattery? By focusing on the strengths in others that we genuinely see. Better still is to praise people’s efforts, because that is measurable, recognizes their achievements, and values the choices they put in behind them.

Instead of saying, “Irene, you look so pretty” (which might be something Irene actually hasn’t much say in), a comment about seeing her being considerate towards other people’s needs verifies that you value her actions (e.g. “Irene, the way you made sure everyone felt welcome was so thoughtful”).

But then I would add an extra element, to make sure the person wasn’t left having to fend off unexpected attention because that can be publicly embarrassing (e.g. “John, the way you turned that golf buggy into a submarine during the holidays is amazing. Where did you learn to do that?”).

By adding a verifying question at the end you give the person you are praising a way to respond that prevents them from being put on the spot. John, could, for instance, explain that his uncle Cecil was a mad scientist who taught him how to build weird things. In turn, this gives him reason to interpret his ability, and that’s always good.

Is praise something you can go overboard with? Well, on the surface it might be. Yet, if it discerns the efforts of others and doesn’t exaggerate achievement, you can do a lot of praising before anyone would find it even slightly discomforting. On the contrary, the more solid praise we share, the better for everyone.

Flattery, on the other hand, is nobody’s friend. And whilst many will readily accept it regardless, it’s always wise to avoid or ignore it. Just politely say “thanks” and move on, and for your own part, scrupulously avoid using it. For what we say and do does matter, even if the only person taking it all to heart is ourselves. Integrity was, is, and always will be a profoundly good thing and praise is an inspiring aspect of that.

A Glad Quote Or Two

Gratitude Not Attitude

Praise Where It’s Due And It Usually Is





Comments are closed.